Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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Oh, Wow!

Lost your internet lately?

In case you haven’t, it’s a real WOW! happening.

(As well as a pain in the watoosi.) I hadn’t realized how much of my life is lived online, until I couldn’t get there. I pay bills, do my banking, communicate with friends, check the weather and my calendar, find out what’s going on with people I know and people I don’t.

These days, I rarely write letters (according to #1 son, no one can read them anyway) because it’s easier, faster and a happier experience for everyone involved if I just email.

So yesterday, just as I was ready to email a chapter to my critique friends, I noticed I’d lost my internet. Bummer, but that happens sometimes. Naturally, I blamed the internet company and figured we’d be back online momentarily.

At lunch, my man called to ask if I knew we’d lost our connection. “They’re probably working on it,” I assured him. But when we got home after work, still no go.

A! C! K!

I couldn’t check to see if anyone in my Small Town World said hi. Couldn’t visit my Facebook Friends. Couldn’t send an email to my sibs or kids or anyone.


And for some reason, I couldn’t connect to the internet on my iPhone. What’s up with that? (Hopefully, #1 son can help in case it happens again.)

This morning (after a call to the company and, “uh-oh, I should have sent them a change of address” moment) we have it back.

Know how it feels? Kind of like swimming under water for a long, long way, when you finally getting to take a sweet breath.


And wow, I’m glad I get to be here today to say hi.


Got To Know Joe

I finished Cherokee Strip Fever, by Zola Bellis Sample, a few weeks ago. Great book. One of my favorite parts is when Charity’s husband comes home with his hand messed up.

When she sees it, she panics. “Is that a snake bite?”

I like that, probably because it’s the same way I’d react if I lived in that time and place. Turns out it wasn’t a snake bite, but a fight. He’d happened upon three bullies picking on Mr. Guffey, who was small in stature but large in spirit, and had to take up for him.

Guffey–a name I recognize from my own childhood.

When it’s all over, Mr. Guffey tells Mr. Bellis that he’s the kind of man the Guffeys would love to have for a neighbor, and in the end that’s exactly what happened. The Bellis family bought the place next to the Guffeys.

Now a confession: One of the reasons I bought her book is because my family is mentioned in it. First time I read her book and saw the name Joe Mitchell, I had to ask Dad who he was. 🙂

Zola doesn’t say much about Joe, except that her dad freighted for him.

This is Joe.

Born one hundred years before me, he buried his first wife in Missouri.

This is the first wife’s headstone. She was not quite thirty when she died.

Back in 1991, one of my dad’s cousins sent him these pictures I’m sharing today. Under this picture he’d written,

“Oak Lawn Cemetery. Her daughter and Husband buried beside her. Joe carved this stone at Mtn. Hme Ark. He and some man owned a small quarry. “

Joe carved his wife’s headstone with his own hands. The very last thing he could ever do for her, except care for and raise their three children, one of whom was my gr-grandfather.

Joe married again and moved to Oklahoma, but not necessarily in that order. I’m not sure which came first. 😉

I don’t believe he made the opening of the Cherokee Strip, but he moved to the Basin not too long afterward. He had the store Zola mentions in her book and also the post office, a cotton gin and saw mill. She has a picture of the saw mill in her book, and says G-G Granddad had a partner in the saw mill.

 This isn’t a good picture from Dad’s cousin, but it’s the cotton gin and saw mill. My two granddads are on the lower left side, standing in front of a huge log and beside several bales of cotton.

A portion of that same picture.

Can you see 1 and 2  written on the picture? #1 is above Joe, #2 above my gr-granddad.

When Joe remarried, he and his new wife had several children. In all, I think Joe fathered twelve or thirteen. Several died in childhood or soon after birth.

In one place the papers I found names, “Parley Mitchell” and “Charley Mitchell.” They’re listed on after the other as if they were twins. Charley died at one month, Parley at one year. The notation next to their names says, “Buried beside Mr. and Mrs. McCrackin in Spears cemetery.”

Aren’t the names wonderful? Charley and Parley. One of Granddad Mitchell’s half-brothers was named Okla Homer. No kidding!

The house my parents lived in when I was born stood in the same place where the store/post office/sawmill/cotton gin had been. The family always called it “Aunt Ginny’s House,” which was Joe’s second wife’s name.

Dad told me Joe traded half his land to a man in order to have that house built–two stories with several bedrooms upstairs one down, a good-sized kitchen, big dining room, and large living room.

I remember being there when my mom’s parents lived there when I was little. The staircase was enclosed and dark with a door to close it off so the wood stove kept only the lower floor warm. The stairs curved at the bottom, then shot straight to the upper floor.

The house was moved a long time ago before the lake came in, but it still stands. (Too dangerous to go into these days, but it’s still around.)

I love knowing that even though I never met Joe (he died in 1903, only 52 years old) we lived in the same house, walked the same paths, loved the same people (his son, my great granddad) and quite probably shared the same values.

 And like the letter Dad’s cousin enclosed with the pictures says, I plan to see them all in the Great By-and-By.

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Wedding Warning

Last summer, when #2 son married DIL #2, I think I mentioned Baby Boy would be getting married in March. Well, guess what?

He still is.

Now I need those sound effects I mentioned a few days ago. I’m just not sure which one(s) I would use. A wistful sigh, because it’s all so romantic. A happy sigh, because I absolutely adore DIL2b and her entire family. Or maybe sobs, because this wedding will mark the absolute end of Brad’s childhood, and we had such a good time while the boys were growing up.

My Wedding Warning happened Saturday. The Shower. It was absolutely wonderful.

DIL2b’s good friend and her mother gave the kids a shower.

So! Much! Fun!!!

Before I left the house that morning, I was in a flurry of dressing, making up and trying to get the frizz burned out of my hair when the phone rang.

BB calling. “Where’s your cell phone, Mom?”

Okay, who knew when you got your first cell phone, you were supposed to have your tattooed into your palm? Anyone? I didn’t!

Fast Forward to the intent of the call. “When you get lost on your way to the shower, call Nicole. She’ll get you there.”

He assumed I’d get lost, which makes a lot of sense. The town I was heading for just happens to be the same town where I took Brad to get his driver’s permit when he was fifteen and a half. We got lost. (Happens to me a lot.)

I couldn’t find it.

An entire town, just at the edge of T-Town, and I had no idea where it was. My man gets a little tired of being my human GPS, so I called a friend who gives the world’s best directions (thanks, M!) and she talked me there.

That seems like just last year. 😦

Anyway, it makes sense for my boy to think I’d get lost. But I Googled the exact address and printed out directions. Of course, Google was going to send me all the way to the Australian Outback to get there, but I knew a shortcut. 😉

I followed all the twists, and watched for the turns and made it into a fun neighborhood, to a beautiful home. I wish I’d taken my camera so I could show you everything.

I arrived twenty minutes early. (That was an accident, for sure.) I wasn’t confident enough of my directions to just boogie up to the house, so I waited until I could call Nicole.

She assured me I was in the right place (“Yes, there is a new house going up next door. Yes, it is bright green. . .”) but I still waited.

Finally, people I knew started showing up, so I climbed out of my car. After a flurry of introductions, we headed to the house.

A couple of my sibs came with their daughters and our sweet, sweet baby (gotta claim her). #1 DIL, the other Shay in attendance, kept the Spess congregation entertained during the afternoon with her dry wit.

As I said, the house was a delight. They’d decorated with teapots and teacups for a Tea Shower. Cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries and delicious little sammies were served with three different kinds of tea–in china teacups. (Brave woman!)

And to make the day completely memorable, the hostess gave Nicole her own tea service,

right down to an adorable tea egg.

Now every time she uses the set, she’ll remember the great time we all had at her shower!

The extra special part of the day was getting to spend time with Nicole and her mom, sister and mom’s best friend. They are a real joy to be with! These women know how to put everyone at ease, and made us all feel as if we’d known each other for years.

As I said, this shower was my warning buzzer. The wedding is less than a month away. (Ack!) Time to get ready. Time to shop for my dress, shoes and whatever to go with it. Oh, and time to either lose thirty pounds or find an undergarment with so much control that it will require the Jaws of Life to remove.


Ps: These pictures aren’t from the shower. I borrowed them online.


Do You Lent?

 The Spess crew, at least my section of it, has never been Lent observers. It’s not something that’s talked about in the Christian Church, unless you’re wearing black and have a problem. No, wait. That’s lint. Never mind.

I’ve heard about the Holy Week preparation, but I’ve never known what it was.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known a lot of people who wanted to celebrate Mardi Gras and Fat Tuesday, they just didn’t go through the Lent part.

So one year, Sister Debbie decided to give up coffee for Lent.

“Do WHAT?” (I always have such a kind way of responding.)

She gave me her sweet nun’s smile. (I wonder what’s going on in her head when she does that.) “I’m giving up coffee for Lent.”

That stopped me. Totally. Lent? Give up something for it? Was it a sin for a Christian to give up something for Lent? No. Probably not.

I blamed it on her friends. She must have a buddy who’d influenced her, which was a shock in itself. Even as a kid, Deb never was one to follow others. Leave it to her to wait until she was full grown, then choose a holy path to follow someone down. 😉

So after a couple of years of observing her observe Lent, I decided to look it up. (Notice I didn’t say I’m going for it.)

The traditional purpose of Lent is the penitential preparation of the believer—through prayer, penance, repentance, almsgiving, and self-denial.

Its institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events of the Passion of Christ on Good Friday, which then culminates in the celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

This event, along with its pious customs are observed by Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Anglicans, as well as some Baptists and Mennonites. 

Baptists? I didn’t grow up with very many Catholics or Lutherans, but I’ve had lots of Baptist friends, and never head them speak of Lent. What’s up with that?

Next, I looked up Great Lent. It, apparently, is observed by Orthodox Catholics. Now I have to look up what Orthodox means. Just a minute.

The word orthodox, from Greek orthos (“right”, “true”, “straight”) + doxa (“opinion” or “belief”, related to dokein, “to think”),[1] is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion.

When I read about Great Lent, something warmed my heart.

Orthodox Christians are expected to pay closer attention to and increase their private prayer. According to Orthodox theology, when asceticism (fasting, etc) is increased, prayer must be increased also.

Well, that makes sense, doesn’t it? If you’re going through the pain of fasting (as Jesus fasted for 40 days in the wilderness just before He started His ministry) the only reason to do it is to enhance your prayer life.

We had a professor at Bible College who’d prayed and fasted for forty days. I never heard him speak of it, but others did and they shared what he’d done.

I always imagined he took the forty days during the summer, when he wasn’t teaching, to go someplace by himself so, like Jesus, he could fast and pray and be alone with the Lord.

And yes, I could see it in his life. Even though he was never my professor, I enteracted with him on campus and heard him speak in chapel. There really was something different about him.

If I’m reading this right, Lent is the preparation for Holy Week. Not just giving something up, but a time to get closer to the Lord and get ready for Resurrection Sunday.

Anybody? Am I right?

How about you? Do you observe Lent? Do you give something up or fast during that time? I think I’d like to learn more.



Know what today is?


Okay, I have to admit, it’s doesn’t rank up there with Valentine’s Day, but hey, it’s CHILI! And at least one of my sons makes award-winning chili. If a man does the cooking and I don’t have to, that makes me celebrate!

It’s also National Chocolate Covered Nut Day. And National Pistol Patent Day. I really think we should party.

Of course, this month we’ve already missed National Serpent Day

and National Weatherman’s Day. 😦

But not to worry. In just a few days we can celebrate Leap Day.

You know about Leap Day, right? It’s the day St. Bridget talked St. Patrick into letting allowing women to propose to men instead of just the other way around. (1 day every four years. That’s fair.) It’s also known as Bachelors Day. A man who was proposed to and turned the woman down had to pay a penalty of a gown or money to the woman he wouldn’t marry.

Babies born on Leap Day are called Leaplings or Leapers.

Leap Day is also St. Oswald’s Day. (If you have information about St. Ossie, let  me know.)

Did you know:

  • Superman was a Leap Day baby? In 1988, Superman celebrated his 50th birthday!  
  • Leap Day isn’t the same as Sadie Hawkins Day.
  • The Leap Day symbol is a frog or toad?
  • The official Leap Day game is Leap Frog?

But that’s in a few days. Today’s National Chili Day. Make a batch and share.

Tomorrow celebrate Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

Monday we can all dance! It’s No Brainer Day.

Live happy. Find reason each day and CELEBRATE!!!



One of My Favs

Most every kid in the in the lower grades of my elementary school was scared to death of one teacher. Miss Holler. (Insert scary music.)

And it wasn’t just her name.

Miss Holler was tall, slender, had gray hair and the severe look of an old time school marm. When skirts were getting shorter, hers did not. When colors were brighter and lighter, hers were not. When hairdos got longer and bigger, hers did not.

Her look became very severe when she had cafeteria duty, which was about the only time the little kids saw her, because she taught fifth and sixth grade.

My fear of the woman started in second grade. If someone broke a crayola and got upset, the teacher said, “When you get in Miss Holler’s class, she’ll make you break all your crayons in half on the first day of school!”

“Miss Holler is strict.”

“Miss Holler won’t let you . . . ”

Just hearing about her scared me.

Miss Holler never married, which made me wonder if she even liked kids. She lived with her mother in the house where she was raised until her mom died. Then she lived there by herself.

And even though she was a member of my church, I didn’t get to know her. She wasn’t in my parent’s Sunday School class and didn’t come to many of the church parties or get-togethers.

And she wasn’t one of the sweet older women who loved it when you ran past them at church and yelled hello. Somehow, you got the impression Miss Holler expected you to walk in church. No yelling.

By the time I reached 5th grade, I was worried about having her for a teacher. Big time. In 5th grade, we started changing classes, and while Mr. Mitchell was my home room teacher (we adored that man!) Miss Holler was to be our Penmanship and Art teacher.

On the first day, I practically hugged my box of Crayola Crayons. I didn’t want to have to break all sixty-four of the brand new beautiful things to pieces, even if it meant I’d get an A in Art.

The first thing we learned in her class was that she was nice. She gave us great art projects to do, such as paper mache giraffes. Mine had a crooked head, which I thought made it look as if it was about to speak. I painted him pink with darker pink spots. (#4, who was just a baby, broke it about as soon as I took it home. LOL.)

And we made posters every year to enter in the county Conservation Contest. She always had something fun and interesting for us to learn in her art class.

Penmanship wasn’t as much fun. Hers was the class where we scrawled capital O’s across the page. Mine usually looked like a long, bent spring, but it was supposed to teach you to be a good writer.

I didn’t flunk that class, but I wasn’t her top student in either subject.

Miss Holler didn’t erase the black board one time that year. She was allergic to chalk dust, so instead of using erasers, she kept a big can of water with a sponge in it, and washed off the board.

To this day, I love seeing a black black board instead of one gray with dust like in the most class rooms.

In sixth grade, Miss Holler was my home room teacher, and even though the other 6th grade teacher was Mr. Findley, who was cute and fun and just out of college, I was thrilled to have her.

That year, she taught us geography, and for the first time, I loved it. It wasn’t just boring books with an occasional picture. (In 4th grade, our teacher usually napped during geography, so I knew it couldn’t be interesting.)

But Miss Holler made it interesting. She assigned each student a different country or region. (I got the Scandinavian Countries.)

It would have been a breeze if we’d had computers. But back then, we had to dig through stacks of National Geographic Magazines she’d saved through the years.

I’m not sure how she did it, but Miss Holler guided us through researching and writing what amounted to a long term paper–and (huge surprise) we enjoyed it! Of course, she didn’t tell us it was a term paper, so we didn’t know we were supposed to hate writing it.

And in her class, we got to do something I’d never done before in school. Watch TV! When NASA sent an astronaut into space, we were “there.”

Miss Holler taught us how to be an individual by example. She didn’t try to dress or talk or act like the other teachers in the building. She was always fair to every student, and even when a boy’s thumb went numb because the hole in his sissors was too small for his large hand, she didn’t tell him to lose weight. She didn’t baby him or assign one of the girls to do his work.

She checked his thumb, briskly told him it would most likely be fine, then loaned him her “official teacher” sissors and gave him time to complete his task.

And, amazingly, she liked us. All of us. Those who were artistically talented like Cathy and Mary, and those of us who could only imagine. And even those of us who wrote our own newspapers.

She truly was a great lady.



History of Old ‘Ford

Yesterday I started sorting through the family information I have. I still can’t find the McCrackin family tree. 😦 I printed it off the Internet a long time ago and can’t find it there, either.

I’ll probably never know the distant cousin who created it, but she has my deepest appreciation. Now if I can just put my hands on it again! (I’ll keep looking.)

While I was looking, I found a copy of something that was with in my Grandmother’s things. At the top of the page written in cursive is the title, History of Old Mannford. The page is typewritten with a couple of strike-throughs and another word written over it.

I don’t know who wrote it, or what it was for, but I have a feeling it might have been for a publication. Or it maybe someone copied it from a publication.  I’ll try to pass it on exactly as I see it with everything spelled and punctuated the same.

Here it is:

Mannford came into being about 1895 in what was then known as Indian Territory. The town was located on T. E. Mann and his sister Hazel Mann’s allotments. The townsite was near the Cimmarron River where it was forded or crossed. It derived it’s name from this crossing or ford as Mann’s ford and which later was known as Mannford. Later a bucket or basket seat was erected on a cable across the river in order for pedestrians people to cross without wading. This was called the Flying Genie.

From Me: Grandmother called it the Flying Jenny.

The first dwelling to be built was a log cabin in back of Clayton Greenwood’s residence.

The Frisco railroad was built through the town in 1902.

The bank was organized in 1905 and the present bank building was constructed in 1907.

Some of the first business places were a cotton gin, blacksmith shop, livery stable, and a general store.

The first school was a subscription school and anyone desiring a highschool education had to go to Pawnee and usually in covered wagon.

From Me: Anyone know what a subscription school is? I’m guessing it’s one you paid to go to, but it sounds as if they drafted kids like soldiers. 🙂

The first school building was a one room building located on the lots where the present Nethodist Church now stands. This building place was also used for community gatherings and worship services.

The Methodists were the first denomination in Mannford.

In about 1904 a four room school house was built on the old school grounds.

From Me: I’m not sure what that means. Where the school grounds were when the paper was written or where the subscription school was.

A bridge was constructed across the river in 1912.

Many a stirring an exciting tale was told by the old timers of the wild and wooly west. Of buried gold, cattle rustling, bank robbing by the Dalton gang. This territory was a rendezous for thieves until the U. S. Marshals moved in to restore law and order.

So . . . someone tell me who write this paper and I’ll put a name on my copy.